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Letter to Jeanette from Edwin Feb 1996

Edwin Hipsey
993 . . . Victoria BC

9th Feb 1996

Dear Jeanette

May I first say how sorry I was to hear about your father. It does not matter how much we think we are prepared or expecting an event it still comes as a shock. By the time you receive this I hope that some of the shock has worn off. I’ll not be expecting to hear from you for a while for I am sure that there will be a lot of sorting out and family business to take care of. It is a distressing time and unfortunately all the demands on time and feelings always seem to be lavished on the grieving folk and at the wrong time. Reading your letter tells me that you have had quite a number of setbacks one way and another. I am sure you will weather this emotional period as you have the others. But take your time and do things at your pace in your own method and attend to others and other things when you are ready. You are not alone and if you feel like unloading on someone, well remember there is another Hipsey over here only too willing to listen.

Thank you so much for such a long and interesting letter. I quite enjoyed reading it and feel that I know a lot about your family and that we have been friends for some time. It’s funny isn't it that there are some folks you can just start a conversation with and not feel at all strange relating facts, feelings or events to them, and yet others it is difficult even to be just civil to.

It was great to know that your friend Mary is now in good hands and I wish her all the best in the recovery process. It never ceases to amaze me how much we care about friends and more so when something happens to them. Time, money, inconvenience, and the like are just words at that time it is just that “What can I do" feeling that is utmost in our minds. Also the relief when the problem is solved is difficult to describe. Not bad feelings are they? Although feelings are neither good or bad or right or wrong. They just are. Enough.!!

You told me a lot about yourself so here goes to fill you in about me. I was born in Beacontree Essex. My brother Ronald was seven years older than me. He joined the Army in 1935, went to North Africa in 1937, was wounded in the Libyan Campaign. His tank regiment then was sent to Burma to cover the retreat He went back over a bridge to clear the road for the rest of the regiment to get through, which they did. Unfortunately his tank was destroyed the crew all perished. That was in Feb 1942' my sister Audrey is two years younger than me. She is married to a Ken Webb and lives In Bracknell, Berks. I was a little more than 2 when we moved to Hayes in Middlesex. My father had recently left the London Fire Brigade after 19 years and had applied for the position as Chief of the Fire Brigade, which at that time consisted of himself being the only full-time paid member. The remaining 12 were volunteers and turned at out the sound of the local factory hooter. Then industry started to move into the area Fairey Aviation, Nestles Chocolate, Scots Jam, HMV (now EMI industries) ICI, etc. etc. Three villages were torn up to make way for what is now known as Heathrow Airport, all of this was part of my dad's fire area responsibility. Of course he started making a lot of noise at council meetings and in the end a very grudging (Labour) council decided that there should be money spent on the Fire Department. In the years between 1930 and 1938 he built the brigade up from one full time man and an excuse for a fire engine and 12 volunteers to a force of 24 full time firemen, two new fire engines an extensive fire alarm system, combined ambulance system, and when the war broke out he had seven sub-stations and 700 trained auxiliary firemen (that he trained personally) and 60 trailer pumps available at a moment’s notice. I am very proud of him, considering that he left school at 14 years because his father said there is one too many at this table, and dad packed up immediately and signed on aboard the four masted sailing ships that sailed to Australia around the Horn. He joined the London Fire Brigade at 21.

I left school after war was declared and went to work. In 1940 I signed On in the Fire Brigade as a dispatch rider. My father apparently "did not notice" that I had put my age down as 16. ln 1941 I applied for the Navy and was accepted in February 1942. In 1946 I qualified as a physical and recreational training instructor. After serving aboard battleships, torpedo boats Dartmouth College, Naval Air Stations, RAF Flying School, where I taught parachute training after a course with the Airborne at Abingdon. I married in 1950 and left the RN in 1956 to emigrate to Canada. Arriving in Toronto not knowing a soul or having a job I worked for about 5 weeks at a huge depot of Loblaws, a Super market retailer, unloading large railway freight cars carrying goods from Florida to Ontario. This was in March. Very very cold and hard work. In May I started as a prison guard in Guelph, about 60 miles east of Toronto. After a year decided that I would join the Canadian Navy. In the wisdom of those that interviewed me it was decided that I could best be of use to the RCN as a weapons electronic technician. (The only thing I knew at that point was how to change a light bulb). However after a couple of years I was sent back to Portsmouth to train in submarines with the Royal Navy. Taking my family with me. On return to Canada there were no vacancies in submarines so I went back to sea in destroyers and minesweepers. I divorced my wife in 1965 and married Sheila In 1973 I was moved to Headquarters in Ottawa where l stayed until 1976 having reached retirement age? The next day I was approached to sign on for 18 months on full pay plus my pension. My job was to transfer with my family to Montreal in Quebec and work at Vickers shipyard as a ship inspector, overseeing the civilian staff during ship refits.

Arriving back in Victoria in 1980 I was immediately approached to take a job as a reservist at the Navy Fire Fighting School, where I taught fire-fighting and damage control. Sort of came the whole circle as it were. We still had our daughter at school, so Sheila decided to take a refresher course and went back into nursing. On completion of the course she applied to Hospice Victoria which had just opened. In fact it was the first hospice ever opened in British Columbia Located initially on the Jubilee Hospital grounds and able to use a number of the hospital facilities a seven bed nursing unit with a very select group of nurses started. Because of this we decided that I would stay at home and be the house husband, Being a sailor housekeeping, shopping, house-cleaning and cooking and washing, along with driving Sheila to work and Veronica to school, taking care of the dog and doing the gardening I found my days pretty full But I enjoyed it, picking Sheila up was amusing when she asked what was for supper. When I told her shepherd’s pie, or beef stew, or whatever her chums would sigh and say." YOU are lucky my husband cannot boil water. . We have to go home after a shift and cook for HIM" Sheila eventually became the Co-Coordinator of Care. A very demanding job which she did so conscientiously that it undermined her health and she had to leave suffering a breakdown due to stress. At that time it was not accepted that stress was an illness. The illness was referred to as stress related. After quite a lot of in fighting doctors recommendations were accepted and Sheila did get a long-term disability pension. But what a pantomime to get it. At the time she lost completely the hearing of one ear, had chronic insomnia, psoraisis, and high blood pressure and was quite disoriented, waking up after some sleep worrying about lists of patients that she did know if they were real or if she had made them up. It was most distressing for her. An injury to her leg that she reported started to give her trouble but somehow the paper work could not be found. So there was no way she could claim. Later her knee gave her so much pain that a specialist said that her knee bones were just riding on one another. No cushioning at all, this all came to a head last July when she had a complete knee replacement now she is able to walk with no limp, relief from pain, and takes no pain killers. I think I am safe in saying that she has fully recovered and her quality of life has vastly improved.

Wow! I do hope that bit of history on my comings and goings does not bore you but it will give you some idea of what I am and where I have been. I would like to ask you if it possible for you remember them, for a couple of more things about your family. Did your grand father have any other name then Arthur, where did he live, where was he born? Where is he buried? Did he have any brothers? What were their names? What was their occupation? What was your dad's and grandfather's occupation?

I have written a letter to Ada and also to John, the son of the gentleman in Plympton. I hope that they answer. When and if they do I will be able to tell you something about them. Meanwhile I will close this letter for the time being and hope to hear from you again in the near future. Well that was my intention However.....

I had not attempted to guess how old/young you were. It was just the fact that you were so assertive with me that particular evening that I knew that you were not some young teenager and my remark about asking your parents for some info was said because, I had never had the family discussed with me and I had never asked either and it was possible that this could have been the case with you. I received a very nice letter from Charles Henry Hipsey living in Corringham Essex and he gave me some details on his father Bertie and mentioned that he had 5 brothers now all deceased. Their names were Charles, Fred, George, and Arthur Ernest. That was it. So you can well understand why am so inquisitive.

Nice to hear that you like gardening and whisky. Maybe we will be able to take a wee dram or two one fine day and talk about gardening. I am not much of an expert at gardening but I do like to work in the garden and am very satisfied to see the efforts rewarded by a nice display of flowers or veggies. They taste so good too. Knowing that they are so fresh, do not have a lot of chemicals added and the price is right too. We have a nice place about a hundred paces to the beach. A creek running across the bottom of the garden. I have arranged large rocks to form a waterfall into a pond Skirted by a large willow that I grew from a small twig snapped off of my neighbor’s tree some years ago. Apple, plum, cherry and pear trees give us a lovely show of blossom in the spring and lots of tasty fruit in the fall. Mallard ducks are frequent visitors year round and it's really great to watch the ducks shepherding the baby chicks along in the spring. Raspberries and strawberries have no difficulty bearing fruit for us and I must say that last year I made a batch of raspberry wine that tastes out of this world. l'm looking forward to repeating the event this year.

I think must close now. Perhaps I should have put a warning on the top for you to read this in small doses. Take care and once again thank you for taking the time to answer my letter with so much enthusiasm and Information. Kindest regards

Yours sincerely